Whom Does Dead Tree Removal Responsibility Fall on for Property Lines?

Whom dead tree removal responsibility falls on will depend on a number of factors. Trees that sit on property lines are a common cause of disputes between neighbors. If you want to trim or remove a tree that sits between your property and your neighbor’s, you need to know your rights. Otherwise, you might actually find yourself breaking the law. Here are some things to consider when dealing with a problem tree sitting on a shared property line.

Tree Disputes Can Be Costly

Trees don’t just look pretty; they have a monetary value, as well. As such, disputes over trees can cost large sums of money. This is especially true if the tree dies or otherwise gets damaged. There are a few factors that can affect the monetary value of a tree:

  • Will the property itself decrease in value if the tree is damaged or removed?
  • How much will it cost to treat the damaged tree? If the tree died, how much would it cost to remove it?
  • How much would it cost to replace the tree, including labor and cleanup?

Who Owns the Tree?

The laws will vary depending on your location. As such, it’s important to consult with your local departments regarding your rights and responsibilities as they relate to boundary trees. Generally speaking, trees that are on the property line will belong to both property owners. This means you and your neighbor will share the value of the tree.

Can I Remove the Tree?

If the tree is on the property line, you cannot remove the tree unless your neighbor agrees to the removal as well.

What if the Tree Falls?

Again, the laws will vary depending on your location. Generally speaking, property owners are responsible for boundary tree damages on their own property in the following cases:

  • An act of God
  • During a hurricane
  • Other extreme weather conditions

In these cases, the property owner will have to file an insurance claim. Your neighbor is not responsible for the damage. There is an exception, however. You might be liable if a branch has been dead or damaged, and your neighbor has asked you to cut it down, but you didn’t.

Can I Prune the Tree or Cut into Its Roots?

In America, you have the right to maintain your property up to the lot line. If a tree is on the property line, then both you and your neighbor are responsible for its upkeep on your respective sides of the fence. This means that if the tree poses a danger to your property, you have the right to trim branches and remove tree roots at your own cost. These include the following circumstances:

  • Overhanging branches
  • Roots damaging sewer lines
  • Leaves that clog gutters
  • Branches that intrude into pipes
  • Roots that intrude into building foundations
  • Broken limbs
  • Cracked tree trunks

Before you do anything, however, it is highly recommended that you consult — and perhaps retain — a professional tree service. Any damage to the tree itself or to neighboring trees can cause a legal battle, and you can be liable for damages. This means that if you trim a branch and the tree then becomes diseased, you can run into legal problems. Even if the tree just looks less pretty, you can be liable for damages. It should also go without saying that if you fell the tree without your neighbor's permission, you will also run into problems.

Can I Go into My Neighbor’s Yard to Trim the Tree?

Absent clear and imminent danger, going into your neighbor’s yard without permission is considered trespassing, even if it’s to trim the tree you both jointly own. Indeed, trimming a tree is only legal up until the property line. If you want to keep trimming consistent around the whole tree, then you always have the option to just be a good neighbor and ask for permission. Great communication helps make good neighbors.


When it comes to tree trimming and dead tree removal responsibility, ultimately it falls on the shoulders of the tree owner. However, for trees that are on property lines, things can be more complicated. If you share a tree with your neighbor, it’s a good idea to consult professional tree services before trimming or removal.